Everyone agrees that getting new, freshly mounted skis and a crisp pair of boots might be the most exciting fall activity before that first storm rolls in. It certainly feels good to look down and have a bright, shiny pair of skis and maybe some matching boots you are excited to try out.
What people don’t often think about though, is how quickly incorrect outerwear can cut an otherwise spectacular day short.
Being cold isn’t that fun, and if you’ve ever been underdressed for the wintry conditions that exist on the mountain you probably know the feeling. Your hands go numb, your toes too and you just can’t seem to stay warm.
Maybe you begin skiing and work up a sweat, and then once you get back on the lift your wet clothes begin to make you colder. It's not fun, and definitely not how you have the best time out.
Don’t worry though, we have you covered on our recommendations for the best ski jackets on the market these days, and with any of these suggestions you are guaranteed to be able to stay warm no matter what mother nature decides to send your way.
Best Overall Ski Jacket: Helly Hansen Alpha Lifaloft
This insulated resort shell is exactly what you need to keep skiing for faster and longer despite the raging storm outside. Having a fully insulated jacket is really helpful to avoid dealing with numerous layers stacked underneath your jacket.
The Alpha Lifaloft is packed with (you guessed it) Lifaloft insulation, which is a synthetic insulation blend that Helly Hansen has devised guaranteed to give you a jacket liner that is lightweight, but will also keep that precious heat in. It also has a gaiter in each sleeve with thumb loops, which is very handy for keeping snow out of the jacket sleeves and your gloves, as well as a powder skirt for keeping the cold stuff out of the bottom of the jacket.
The hood will fit over your helmet, and there are two chest and two hip pockets as well as internal pockets for ski passes and electronics with zip closure to ensure you keep everything you brought with you on the slope.
All of the seams are fully seam sealed to ensure that this jacket will last as long as you do on the slopes without letting moisture in. It is also equipped with the RECCO Advanced Rescue System which aids rescue efforts in the mountains.
The only feature missing on this jacket is the inclusion of vents under the armpits, which can help fine tune your temperature. For an insulated jacket however, this is minor. It promises to keep you warm and definitely will deliver!
Best Resort Ski Jacket: Arc’teryx Macai
Arc’teryx is a brand known for relentlessly thinking about each product they make, and testing and retesting to make some of the best gear around these days.
Just as usual, the Macai doesn’t disappoint being a low profile, lightweight ski jacket equally comfortable whether the storm is upon you or its all blue skies and sunshine.
The insulation is European sourced goose down which are some of the most packable, lightweight yet insulating materials in the world. The strategic Down Composite Mapping in the insulation is achieved by placing down at the critical areas where heat is usually lost and putting synthetic insulation where moisture can persist. By using down, Arc’teryx is able to shed some serious weight off this jacket, and deliver a fully optimized resort shell weighing 2 lbs 3 oz (990 grams). That is a seriously lightweight jacket that doesn’t spare any of the details.
The armpits and elbows are articulated allowing for freer movement without straining the jacket material. There is a helmet compatible hood, which can be removed on sunny days. Underarm vents unzip allowing you to shed excess heat, but mesh prevents snow from penetrating the jacket. Finally, the whole package is wrapped in a Gore-Tex shell which is the leading material on the market for water repellency yet breathability.
This jacket has RECCO and also meets Bluesign criteria for being a sustainably sourced product. The only con of this excellent jacket is the slightly higher price than most. That being said the additional features are worth every penny for a high performance, highly durable resort shell.
Best Bargain for a Resort Ski Jacket: REI Co-op First Chair GTX
The REI Co-op First Chair GTX comes with loads of features usually only found in high end jackets, yet delivers them at a fraction of the cost of similar jackets on the market.
The shell is 2-layer Gore-tex which allows the exterior layer to repel moisture yet also allows the membrane to shed internal heat and avoid pesky condensation when skiing hard.
In addition, the presence of underarm vents also helps you shed that excess heat.The hood cinches down to fit over a helmet or a hat, and a powder skirt will make you feel confident on the deepest of days. There is a pass pocket on the sleeve of the jacket, a phone or electronic pocket on the inside as well as two fur lined hip pockets for a little extra warmth and comfort when the wind whips up. Not only that, but all of it is put together in a fair trade certified factory.
The lining is made of recycled polyester and the product is Bluesign approved as well. The only thing lacking about this jacket is the fact that it is only a shell. That means there is no insulating layer such as down or polypropylene to add warmth to the jacket. The shell is cut however to accept additional insulating layers underneath, and also further allows you to fine tune your layering for optimal temperature control.
There aren’t many features this jacket is missing, and at this price it should be high on any cost conscious skiers list who doesn’t want to sacrifice quality for cost.
Best on a Tight Budget: Columbia Whirlibird Interchange IV
Skiing is expensive, between skis, boots, outerwear and lift tickets the price of admission can be pretty steep.
So if you are out there trying to go skiing, but still looking for a jacket that won’t break the bank, then the Columbia Whirlibird Interchange IV is definitely the jacket for you.
This jacket features a 3-in-1 design which means it is made of an insulating layer, a liner and a shell. The shell and liner zip out to allow you to wear just one or the other for ideal temperature balance. The interior boasts the Omni-heat reflective dots which allow you to retain body heat without increasing weight.
We are after all looking for a warm jacket that doesn’t feel heavy and restrictive when the snow is deep and we need all of that mobility to ski our best.The shell has two zippered hand pockets, a zippered chest pocket, as well as an internal goggle pocket, a pass pocket on the sleeve and a waterproof electronic pocket. The interior also boasts a powder skirt as well and underarm zippered vents for shedding excess heat when the storm clears and the sun comes up.
This jacket has everything you need to stay warm and perform on the mountain, and nothing that you don’t. No bells, no frills and some money to spare for that lift ticket.
Best Bang for your Buck: The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate
The best bang for your buck jacket should have all of the features of a true high end jacket, but maintain a lower price than those jackets topping the charts, and in this regard The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate.
The insulating layer and shell boasts zip-in technology, allowing either to be worn by itself to allow layering versatility.
The insulation is synthetic, it is a recycled polyester which retains heat even in wet and moist conditions. The shell boasts underarm vents for shedding excess heat in the sunshine, as well as a fixed, helmet compatible hood.
There are two zippered hand pockets, as well as a zippered chest pocket and as well as an interior goggle pocket. This jacket has a true removable insulating layer, as well as a waterproof shell. All of the necessary pockets that a resort jacket should have and a powder skirt and hood as well. This shell is essentially two complete jackets in one, and is also compatible with the zip-in system with other North Face jackets, allowing ideal layering moving forward. The only feature I’d like to see is perhaps an adjustable hood to be used with or without a helmet, but still this jacket is truly versatile and will help anyone perfect their layering to stay warm and dry on the slopes.
All of these jackets are tried and true options which will help you get into the mountains and have fun, regardless of what the weather decides to do. We can’t control the weather, but we can control what we wear to meet mother nature as prepared as possible. It is, after all, hard to ski when you are shivering from those blustery winds blowing snow everywhere.
Any of these jackets will brush that wind aside and keep that snow out from the warm and dry layers underneath leaving you able to ski for as long as the lifts are running.